I know what a lot of you are thinking and I agree, there should be more productive ways to spend a morning than by breaking down another “bold prediction.” But I run a Cubs blog and was intrigued when Jesse Rogers teased this particular take in the moments leading up to his Wednesday appearance on ESPN 1000’s Kap & J.Hood. Then I saw Bleacher Nation’s headline and fought against my better judgment to listen to the audio (15:57 mark).
We’ll get to the prediction itself — which wasn’t actually that bold in the end — in a moment, but I first wanted to address the preamble to Rogers’ appearance. The studio must have been celebrating Festivus because both hosts took turns airing their grievances with Kris Bryant, starting with Jonathan Hood doing his best impression of a Facebook commenter.
Tl;dr: Based on what he’s heard over the last few days and the respective trade values of the players in question, Rogers believes Yu Darvish is more likely than Bryant to be traded by Opening Day.
“I liked Kris Bryant when he was quiet and hit the hell out of the baseball,” Hood said. “When he came to spring training a couple of years ago and laid his cards on the table, the one hour-plus press conference. What? Dude, who’s this guy? ‘I’ll talk all day about my contract. Cubs never offered me…’ Wait, ‘scuse me?
“First of all, you don’t talk in the public about your contract. That’s why, to me, he made a complete heel turn. What happened to Kris Bryant?”
Heel turn? Come the hell on. Sounds an awful lot like J. Hood is asking K. Bryant to shut up and dribble. That presser he referenced was actually this past spring, though it’s understandable given the nature of COVID Time that it actually feels like at least two years ago.
Bryant categorically denied that his camp had made any requests for a deal of a certain value and he specifically shot down the report that he’d declined an extension for “well north of $200 million.” That latter figure came from David Kaplan in late 2018, though the offer in question purportedly came much earlier. Bryant said he was on the golf course when he heard the news, which I understand to be true.
As was reported by CI at the time, no offer ever made its way to Bryant himself. Kaplan actually clarified some of the details when he appeared on “The Rant Live” during the shutdown, saying that the guaranteed base may have actually been much lower and that various options and escalators could have boosted it significantly.
My understanding based on a little deductive reasoning and information I’ve gotten from sources with knowledge of the situation is that the Cubs approached Boras about making an offer and were told to present a number. At that point, they countered by asking the agent to go first. Boras then put the ball back in the team’s court and that’s pretty much where things have remained ever since.
Kap still seems to have an ax to grind about the whole matter, so he busted out the ol’ whetstone again by essentially calling Bryant a liar. The host doubled down on his report, paraphrasing Theo Epstein’s claim that “We offered a monster extension to every core guy we wanted and our guys all said no.” I’m not going to search through the podcast archives to confirm, but I sure don’t remember Epstein saying anything quite like that in the past.
Though it’s not necessarily germane to this topic, Kaplan claims Addison Russell was offered $35 million over five years, which, if true, the Cubs have to be thanking their lucky stars was never accepted. While that figure doesn’t quite support the above quote, Russell himself could be considered a monster.
Anyway, let’s get to what should have been the primary topic of this post, which is the prediction from Rogers that’s based on inside information but really shakes out to be a matter of logic.
“If I’m to believe the things I’ve heard both publicly — and that’s the Kris Bryant stuff — and privately over the last couple days, and I’m starting to believe it, here’s my bold prediction: I think there’s a better chance Kris Bryant is on the Opening Day roster than Yu Darvish,” Rogers said. “I keep hearing Yu Darvish’s name is out there in the trade market. I think the phrase ‘Everyone is available’ is actually true for this team.
“I don’t think Báez will be traded, but truly everybody is available and I would put now Yu Darvish ahead of Kris Bryant. It’s because of what you said before, Kap, they aren’t hearing what they wanna hear for a Kris Bryant trade. You certainly can get some value back in Yu Darvish.”
Rogers has taken on more of a national beat in addition to his Cubs coverage, so it’s reasonable to believe he’s got his finger on multiple pulses here. Then there’s the fact that the Four Letter is all about breaking news and grabbing headlines, and there seems to be a lot of information-sharing between colleagues when it comes to sources and such. Take a pretty mundane possibility, season it up a little bit, and you’ve got a recipe for a good story.
I’m not knocking it, mind you, that’s the name of the game.
No matter the likelihood of this scenario unfolding, it’d just be depressing to see the Cubs “forced” to part with a Cy Young finalist and one of their most endearing and marketable stars because they don’t have the budget to retool on the fly. There’s really no reason they can’t keep both Darvish and Bryant this season and beyond, particularly if they want to remain competitive in what should be a very down year across the NL Central.
As much as people want to believe the Cubs’ brand is strong enough to survive another tear-down and rebuild, I’m not so sure their current trajectory supports that theory. It’s not as though there’s going to be some mass exodus all at once, but the shift to Marquee and the shortened season alienated quite a few out-of-market fans. Rising ticket prices may be taking a toll on season-ticket renewals, and premium club experiences taking greater precedence over standard seats has eroded some of Wrigley’s ambiance while preventing a lot of families from attending as many games.
Sometimes you’ve got to spend money to make money, which in the Cubs’ case doesn’t mean going hog wild and carrying a $300 million payroll. But if they can’t operate like a major market and end up suppressing the baseball budget significantly for more than just one year — and this comes after two winters of almost zero activity — there will absolutely be lingering effects on overall revenue that won’t be so easily recouped.
Anyway, it’s always great to play the role of Eeyore.